Psychological health takes its bends during different seasons of life. For someone living with palliative care needs, their mental wellness may have detrimental impacts. Global evidence depict higher reporting of anxiety, depression, psychological distress, and many other mental health issues among people receiving palliative care. The psychosocial burden of receiving palliative treatment is viewed among the caretakers and family members as well.
Addressing their psychological needs along with medical needs, is important. Supporting the mental health of seniors at their critical stages of health can be done by doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, social workers, family and friends. The psychological impact of cancer, HIV/AIDS, heart failure, or any other life-threatening disease when left unnoticed and unaddressed can lead to complexities than the disease condition. This clarifies the need and importance of a multidisciplinary approach including doctors, palliative care nurses, allied health professionals, and social workers.
The National Council for Hospice and Specialist Palliative Care Services defines psychosocial care as “care associated with the psychological and emotional well-being of the patient and their family and caregivers, including self-esteem issues, insight into an adaptation to the illness and its consequences, social functioning, communication, and relationships.”
Rise of Multiple Emotions
The cause of poor mental health among people receiving palliative care could be due to different reasons like disease diagnosis, altered lifestyle, poor access to healthcare, and lack of caregivers.
Overlooking their mental wellness can also shed undesirable effects on the treatment outcome and quality of life,
Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease can give rise to multiple emotions.
- Fear of death, deterioration of health, dependence on people, and pain is common.
- Thoughts of not being able to achieve their dreams and ambitions, and death separating them from their loved ones can cause sadness in them.
- The question of what is next after diagnosis can cause confusion and anxiety.
- Transformations in their body, dependence, and socioeconomic status can lower their self-esteem.
- Many individuals may vent their rage and anger. They may question their situation with anger and unsuccessful treatments can also make them angry.
- Emotional distress (the inability to cope with emotions) is common in people with serious illnesses. Physical pain, isolation, dependence, and affected relationships with their loved ones can spurt emotional distress.
- Denial is sometimes the first emotion an individual expresses at the time of diagnosis.
Strategies to Enhance Mental Wellness
There are several ways one can extend help and support mental wellness in seniors receiving palliative care.
- Create a safe, calm, and private environment for them to unwrap their emotions.
- Give them the space to express their feelings whenever they wish to.
- Encourage them to open up about their fears and worries.
- Know what kind of approach they may prefer. Some seniors may want an upbeat approach while some just want you to listen to them.
- Spend quality time with them to apprehend their experiences and feelings.
- Always ask open-ended questions to be sure of what they want.
- Be an active listener. Acknowledge their feelings.
- Encourage and partner with them to perform activities they enjoy doing like reading books, listening to music, drawing, gardening, and more.
- Appropriate and consented physical touches like holding hands or offering a hug can make them feel safe and cared for.
- Be prepared for moments where they express anger or even cry out. Just being around them, showing empathy, and offering them to talk, can be helpful in such situations.
- Encourage them to create a memory box that includes objects, photos, letters, and gifts that bring them positivity and happiness.
Seeking a psychologist’s or a psychiatrist’s advice reduces the burden on the treatment team to meet the psychological needs of the seniors. It is also vital to consider evidence-based approaches to tackle certain mental health problems by seeking professional help.
The period of diagnosis and treatment initiation can be agonizing and due to the unavailability of a psychologist, the clinicians may share broad resources. Pulling in a psychologist for such discussions can be resourceful to communicate about the care plan and assess, identify, and treat the psychological concerns of palliative care seniors.
Other members of the palliative care team also support and help the seniors cope with mental disturbances.
- Palliative care specialists can assist them to manage medical issues and educate them about symptom management and treatment. Being aware of the condition can help reduce worry and anxiety in seniors.
- Spiritual care specialists can help seniors find purpose and fulfil their spiritual or religious needs.
- Complementary therapists can bring relaxation and comfort with therapy.
- Social workers can help seniors and their families to gain access to community organisations. They also provide mental support to the patient and their family.
Managing and improving physical health is the primary view while providing palliative care services, mental health is often abandoned. Athulya’s approach towards #caringforasenior addresses physical and mental wellness. Our geropsychologists along with the palliative care team help seniors build good mental health by instilling valuable tools to cope with disease stress, manage uncertainty, regulate emotions, and enhance communication and decision-making skills. To know more about Athulya’s Palliative care service visit our homepage, Athulya Assisted Living.